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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Failed Application
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0838  Sunday, 1 May 2005

[1]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Apr 2005 15:43:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

[2]     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Sunday, May 01, 2005
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

[3]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Apr 2005 22:31:21 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Saturday, 30 Apr 2005 01:25:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Apr 2005 15:43:15 -0400
Subject: 16.0820 Failed Application
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

John Shakespeare's applications for a coat of arms have been a matter of
ambiguity and controversy. While two drafts of the 1596 application are
in existence, there is not in existence the allegedly approved 1596
application. It is inferred by some that the second application in 1599
proves that the first had been approved and that this was applied for in
order to impale Mary's family's arms into the design.  Others disagree.
In the end, Mary's family's arms were not impaled into the design and
John had his arms. A few years later (1602), a Heraldic official
questioned John's arms along with 22 others that he considered unworthy
of approval, a challenge that led to nothing. If anyone thinks that it
is easy to understand the details of what happened to John's
applications for arms, he ought to try reading the murky account of it
given by Samuel Schoenbaum and others.

Larry Weiss had argued that the coat of arms process "proved" that Mary
was of a gentle line. My assertion was that the process of getting
approval for arms was not such proof as a result of its ambiguity. Why
this process was problematic I have no way of knowing but I was
unwilling to draw conclusions from it as to the certainty of Mary
Arden's faith the way that Larry Weiss did. That is what I thought I was
asserting.

Mary Arden was the daughter of Robert Arden who had descended somehow. I
believe there is some ambiguity about what that descent was. Historian
Peter Levi writes:

     About the precise interrelations of the numerous
     Warwickshire Ardens and Ardernes we can discover
     even less, though genealogists believe them to be
     another of the rare cases where everyone of that
     name is related by family.

In other words, the Ardens were numerous and that it is rare that in
such numbers all would be related, though "geneologists" believe this to
be the case. Michael Wood is quoted by Peter Bridgman as writing:

    There is still some uncertainty over Mary Arden's exact
    relationship to the Park Hall Ardens, but the evidence suggests
    she was descended from Thomas Arden, one of several younger sons
    of Walter Arden of Park Hall, who recovered the family estates
    during the Wars of the Roses.

I take Wood's words literally that there is ambiguity as to where
Mary's family came from. It would seem to me that Mary's Catholicism
has therefore not been proved. She may very well be what scholars have
suggested she is, and then, maybe not since the situation is far more
complex than imagined.

The numbers of Ardens would suggest to me that this situation is a
perfect foil for a family wanting to fit into such a large clan, such
as, perhaps, a Jewish family who adopts the Arden name. For example, it
happens that there are Jews who have posed as being descended from
priestly families. This is not of course anything like proof, but it
suggests possibility. After all, British historian Cecil Roth has
written of secret Jewish communities at Shakespeare's time in Bristol
and London and there may have been more that have remained unknown,
perhaps one in Stratford.

I raise this issue because William Shakespeare through his work presents
the profile of a hidden Jew. He knows Hebrew since his work is filled
with examples of it. He knows details of traditional Jewish worship and
the Talmud. He writes plays that display this knowledge and a book of
154 poems that contains an allegory using the concepts of a renowned
Jewish Kabbalist and that contains a cipher code that makes use of the
Hebrew language. He also creates a play in which the moral universe of
Jew and Christian are reversed. The Jew in the play makes errors of
judgment while the Christians are guilty of moral failures like robbery,
false witness, and failing to dispense the mercy that is hailed as the
essence of their religion. So strong is Shakespeare's advocacy that it
suggests that he came from a family setting in which the elements of the
Jewish religion and its Talmudic culture were communicated to him by
father and mother. The recusancy of John Shakespeare would thus not need
to be explained only by the fact that he was a Catholic.

If that is what the Shakespeare's were, a Jewish family in Christian
England, living in danger of being discovered and being expelled or
worse since it was a crime for Jews to live in England at the time, can
anyone expect that publically they would offer anything else but a
Christian profile? What else could appear but baptisms, Christian
marriages, Christian burial, and such? And what could be concluded from
these?

What is more, given the passage of 400 years and the importance of
William Shakespeare as a major figure in British and world history over
a period of time in which Jews were reviled worldwide, it does not
stretch the imagination to think that, if he were indeed a Jew, evidence
of this would have by now been carefully expunged. The report about
James Wilmot in the 1780's comes to mind. He sought to write a biography
of the poet and had accumulated materials on the poet collected in
Stratford.  Apparently he found something so disturbing that he had all
he collected destroyed after his death without revealing it to others.
Only bits and pieces of a Judaic story, if it ever did exist, could get
through a gauntlet of hostile history as did not Shakespeare's papers.

In short, there can be no "proof" that Mary Arden was Jewish in a
setting in which the consequences of being discovered to be a Jew is
expulsion and perhaps death. It can only be expected that there would be
records of baptisms, Christian burials, official documents with official
religious professions, and such. As for the possibilities of another
truth, at best, there can only be inferential material drawn from hidden
devices that the poet would have used in his work to communicate those
facts about his life and origin. And this is what I and others have been
finding since it points to a poet familiar with and identifying with
this Jewish society.

Some of the methods the poet used for this is similar to that used by
Joseph in the Bible to communicate to his brothers when Joseph displays
to them that he knew familial things. I have conveyed some of these
communications to the list and there is much more, confirming the poet's
familiarity with the Hebrew language and familiarity with Judaic life
and practices. There can be no doubt of the poet's capabilities in this
area to anyone familiar with the substance of this material.

As I have acknowledged on list, the use of the Hebrew language is not by
itself evidence of a Jewish poet. What makes the latter idea credible is
the constellation of factors in addition to this, factors that include
his knowledge of arcane aspects of traditional Judaism.  That he
repeatedly displays this in his work indicates his desire to make this
aspect of himself known.

I believe this knowledge opens avenues to understanding the poet's work
that have been hitherto unavailable. But the price of finding out the
mind and the heart of the great poet as well as the sources of his
inspiration requires exploration of these things. Maybe it is possible
that a non Jewish poet could have done what he did and taken the
positions he did. This would remain to be seen as the outcome of
scholarship, not as an a priori conclusion. But none of these and other
conclusions ought to be asserted while running roughshod over evidence.
As any lawyer will admit, in the absence of direct evidence, a smoking
gun, circumstantial evidence is good evidence if it is abundant and of
good quality. Many a criminal is in jail as a result of such evidence
and I would hate to see the bar to circumstantial evidence so high that
it becomes a form of blinder in these investigations.

I welcome Hardy Cooke's invitation to contribute to list and will try to
do so more carefully in the future.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Sunday, May 01, 2005
Subject: 16.0820 Failed Application
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

I am going to make one more submission to this thread and then I am
going to take my own advice
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2005/0412.html> and withdraw, having
been in my life stuck to far more tar babies than I would care to admit.

Of the coast of arms, David Basch writes, "John Shakespeare's
applications for a coat of arms have been a matter of ambiguity and
controversy. While two drafts of the 1596 application are in existence,
there is not in existence the allegedly approved 1596 application. It is
inferred by some that the second application in 1599 proves that the
first had been approved and that this was applied for in order to impale
Mary's family's arms into the design.  Others disagree. In the end,
Mary's family's arms were not impaled into the design and John had his
arms. A few years later (1602), a Heraldic official questioned John's
arms along with 22 others that he considered unworthy of approval, a
challenge that led to nothing. If anyone thinks that it is easy to
understand the details of what happened to John's applications for arms,
he ought to try reading the murky account of it given by Samuel
Schoenbaum and others."

Now, one of the difficulties I have with this and similar posts are
phrases such as "It is inferred by some . . ." and "Others disagree." In
my response, I will cite my authorities.

Katherine Duncan-Jones, whose title reveals her major thesis
(<I>Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life</I>, London: Arden
Shakespeare, 2001), comments on Shakespeare's attempt to have the Arden
coat quartered with that of his father's family: "The fact that
Shakespeare attempted in 1599 to have the Arden coat quartered with that
of Shakespeare - an attempt which seems to have been unsuccessful, since
the quartering was not shown on his funeral monument - reflects his
painful awareness that the patent he acquired so expensively in 1596 was
highly questionable, and well known to be so. Establishing gentility
with reference to the Ardens, if it could have been done, might have
helped, although strict theorists did not accept female descent" (102).
Duncan-Jones thus implies that the Arden family had a stronger claim to
gentility than the paternal one.

I am glad that David Basch acknowledges the documentary evidence that
Mary Arden was the daughter of Robert Arden: "Mary Arden was the
daughter of Robert Arden who had descended somehow. I believe there is
some ambiguity about what that descent was."

This documentary evidence establishing this relationship is Robert's will.

Sam Schoenbaum in <I>William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life</I>( New
York: Oxford University Press in association with Scolar Press, 1975)
notes, "In the autumn of 1556 Robert Arden lay dying. By his will made
on 24 November, when he was sick in body but 'good and perfett of
rememberence', he bequeathed his soul 'to Allmyghtye God and to our
bleside Ladye Sent Marye and to all the holye compenye of heven' - this
loyal subject of Catholic Queen Mary held fast to the Old Faith. His
wife he looked after prudentially, setting conditions on his bequest of
ten marks (L6.13s.4d.). But his youngest daughter inspired fonder
thoughts; Arden left her, besides the customary ten marks, all of his
most valuable possession: the estate in Wilmcote, called Asbyes, 'and
the crop apone the grounde sowne and tyllide as hitt is'" (19).

Issues surrounding the possible connection with the Robert's family with
the Park Hall Ardens notwithstanding, recent biographers are unanimous
about Robert Arden's family's faith.

Russell Fraser (<I>Young Shakespeare</I>, New York: Columbia University
Press, 1988) maintains, "This was sometime between 1556, when Mary's
father died, naming her in his will, and 1558, when their first child,
Joan, was born. Joan was baptized a Catholic, a Catholic queen being on
the throne. The Ardens were Catholic in private but in public followed
the leader" (21).

Park Honan (<I>Shakespeare: A Life</I>, Oxford and New York: Oxford
University Press, 1998) takes the implication to its logical conclusion:
". . . Robert Arden's belief in her [his daughter Mary's] dependability
is evident. She can hardly have been much older than 17 or 18 when he
made his will. Young women, at that time, were seldom named in wills as
executors, and Robert Arden's will is that of an alert, shrewd Catholic,
who does not wholly trust his own wife. Whether or not he came from a
cadet branch of the Catholic Park Hall Ardens, in Castle Bromwich in the
parish of Aston near Birmingham, he seems to have shared the Arden
piety. His father Thomas in 1501 had been able to use as a trustee the
first of the intently pious Throckmortons, of Coughton Court, who died
on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and whose son, Sir George, spoke out
against Henry VIII's divorce. Robert Arden joined Stratford's pious
foundation. He chose as his will's first witness (as he had no need to
do) a curate so stubbornly Catholic as to be dismissed later from a
Snitterfield vicarage for adhering to the old faith. Wedded to John
Shakespeare, Mary may have found his religious views problematic or
unlike her father's, but John seems to have been brought up as a
Catholic, and their son William was raised in the shadow of the old
faith" (15).

It seems to me that in light of the documentary evidence that the
possibility of Robert Arden's family being "hidden Jews" is beyond belief.

There are many other points in David Basch's post above for which I
could comment, but I only want to respond to one before holding my peace.

Basch cites Michael Wood to suggest that the Ardens' Catholicism has not
been proved: "In other words, the Ardens were numerous and that it is
rare that in such numbers all would be related, though "geneologists"
believe this to be the case. Michael Wood is quoted by Peter Bridgman as
writing:

    There is still some uncertainty over Mary Arden's exact
    relationship to the Park Hall Ardens, but the evidence suggests
    she was descended from Thomas Arden, one of several younger sons
    of Walter Arden of Park Hall, who recovered the family estates
    during the Wars of the Roses.

I take Wood's words literally that there is ambiguity as to where Mary's
family came from. It would seem to me that Mary's Catholicism has
therefore not been proved. She may very well be what scholars have
suggested she is, and then, maybe not since the situation is far more
complex than imagined."

Although the relationship between Robert Arden and the Park Hall Ardens
may be uncertain, Michael Wood (<I>Shakespeare</I>, New York: Basic
Books, 2003) has no doubt that Robert Arden was an adherent to the Old
Faith: "So Mary, one of seven sisters, grew up as the daughter of a
prosperous farmer and bearer of the oldest name in Warwickshire. By a
great stroke of luck, Robert Arden's will, dated November 1556, survives
in Worcester Record Office. Mary, then still unmarried, was the
executrix: a clear sign of her ability. The document gives a picture of
traditional rural society only a few years before William was born, and
is thoroughly Catholic with its appeal to the Angels and the Virgin Mary
'and all the blessed company of saints'. Henry VIII's Reformation had so
far touched this part of Warwickshire only lightly. In keeping with most
of her class and neighbours, Mary Arden would have been brought up in a
highly ritualized, old-fashioned English country Catholicism" (26-27).

The documentary evidence that Mary Arden grew up in a Catholic household
appears irrefutable.

David Basch proposes that "The numbers of Ardens would suggest to me
that this situation is a perfect foil for a family wanting to fit into
such a large clan, such as, perhaps, a Jewish family who adopts the
Arden name. For example, it happens that there are Jews who have posed
as being descended from priestly families. This is not of course
anything like proof, but it suggests possibility."

I require evidence as convincing as I have cited before I could
entertain David Basch's theory that the Ardens were "hidden Jews" and
thus that William Shakespeare through his mother was Jewish as anything
other that wishful thinking on Basch's part.

Hardy M. Cook

P.S.: David Basch could begin by being more careful about the spelling
of my name: "I welcome Hardy Cooke's invitation to contribute to list
and will try to do so more carefully in the future."

P.P.S.: My right arm is still in a cast and my ability to type has not
improved; all of my quotations above have been scanned and converted by OCR.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Apr 2005 22:31:21 +0000
Subject: 16.0820 Failed Application
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

To our long suffering editor:

While acknowledging David Basch's penchant for circumcising
Shakespeare's quill and every word issuing therefrom, I nonetheless find
censorship too drastic a solution and (?)inimical to the spirit of the
List. Perhaps Eric Luhrs could set up an automatic DELETE function, as
in other fora, whereby listmembers could opt to receive no email from
selected posters. All posts would still be available on the SHAKSPER
site, yet Larry Weiss and David Basch could forego the pleasure of each
other's company.


Regards,
Joe Egert

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Saturday, 30 Apr 2005 01:25:21 -0400
Subject: 16.0820 Failed Application
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0820 Failed Application

David Basch wrote:

 >As any lawyer will admit, in the absence of direct evidence,
 >a smoking gun, circumstantial evidence is good evidence if it is
 >abundant and of good quality.

Judges and lawyers frequently explain this with a hypothetical example:
  Suppose it is material to prove that it rained in a certain
neighborhood during the post-midnight hours on a given day.  No one
observed any such rain, but a resident of the neighborhood testifies
that he looked out of his window before going to bed the night before
and observed that all was perfectly dry, but when he woke eight hours
later the streets were wet and there were puddles in the lawns and
gutters.  To be sure, there may be other explanations for the wet
streets but, in the absence of evidence of one of them, it may be
inferred that it had rained.  Suppose, however, that the weather
bureau's official records show that there was no rain that night and all
other residents of the neighborhood deny that they saw either rain or
wet streets.  In that case, the most likely inference is that the first
witness is either a liar or a lunatic.

Lest Mr. Basch take offense, I want to be perfectly clear that I am not
accusing him of deliberately misrepresenting what he says he perceives.
  I think he is entirely sincere, but deluded.  Indeed, I have devised a
test to allow Mr. Basch to demonstrate his sincerity, as I will
demonstrate mine.  I propose that each of us post a modest stake (say
$10,000) to be held by Hardy as stakeholder and awarded to Mr. Basch if
a jury of distinguished SHAKSPERians concludes that it is likely that
William Shakespeare was a Jew.  If they conclude that is improbable, the
total stake would be awarded to me.  To avoid any suggestion of bias, I
suggest that the jury consist of at least six members of SHAKSPER.  Mr.
Basch and I would each nominate six potential members and then strike
three from the other's list to arrive at the final jury.  Confident that
Mr. Basch is eager to assure us of his sincerity, I look forward to his
acceptance.

[Editor's Note: I respectfully decline the honor of being the holder of
such a stake.]

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